By Hannah Torregoza
Senator Joseph Victor “JV” Ejercito on Thursday expressed disappointment on the Senate’s failure to approve the supplemental budget bill seeking to use the P1.16-billion refunded money for the medical needs of the children inoculated with the Dengvaxia vaccines.
“I am very dismayed that the Senate failed to approve the measure I introduced appropriating P1.16-billion for 2018 intended for the protection and welfare of children who received Dengvaxia vaccines,” said Ejercito, chair of the Senate committee on health and demography.
“I can only imagine the disappointment of the families of the victims who continue to endure agony and uncertainty,” Ejercito added.
The Senate was supposed to tackle the measure right after they approved the proposed Bangsamoro basic law (BBL) and the resolution of the Senate on the quo warranto decision on Chief Justice Maria Lourdes Sereno.
But there was a lack of quorum, a few minutes after 2 a.m., on Thursday, at the time the supplemental budget was to be discussed.
In contrast, the House of Representatives passed its version of the supplemental budget bill on Tuesday night, after President Rodrigo Duterte certified the measure as urgent.
Sen. Loren Legarda, chair of the Senate finance committee, said the measure should be tackled soon so that recipients of the Dengvaxia vaccine can avail of financial assistance.
The supplemental budget bill seemingly became a casualty after the upper chamber failed to adopt the resolution, signed by 14 senators, expressing the opinion of the Senate that Congress has exclusive powers in removing an impeachable official through an impeachment trial.
“I was on standby the whole night, ready to defend the (supplemental) budget,” Ejercito lamented.
“I am happy that we were able to approve the bill that could potentially bring peace to our Muslim brothers and sisters. But it would have been better had we been able to approve the measure that would give some peace of mind to the victims’ families,” he stressed.
Nevertheless, Ejercito said he would ensure that the supplemental budget bill will get approved when Congress resumes its regular session in July.
“Despite this temporary setback, I promise to work doubly hard to ensure its immediate approval when we return starting July for the 3rd Regular Session of the 17th Congress,” he said.